The Laurier Golden Hawks men’s basketball team looked poised to advance to their first Wilson Cup since the 1977-78 season, but a fourth-quarter meltdown allowed the Carleton Ravens to win a squeaker 83-76.
While they may have technically been the away team tonight at McMaster’s Burridge Gymnasium, it felt like a home game for the Golden Hawks as hundreds of Laurier fans made the trip to Hamilton and created a tough atmosphere for the undefeated Ravens.
That atmosphere helped Laurier get off to a great start, as the two high-powered offenses went back and forth throughout the first quarter and Laurier shocked the crowd by finishing the quarter up by a single point, 26-25.
Led by OUA West First-Team All-Star Kale Harrison, who had 21 points in the first half, the Golden Hawks managed to head into the half up 47-44. Terrific defense helped hold OUA East Player of the Year Tyson Hinz to just 10 points in the half, and the Golden Hawks looked to have momentum going into the third.
The Ravens came out in the second half looking for an answer, meanwhile it was Laurier who began the half with a 6-0 run in the first two minutes. However, success did come to the Ravens in Philip Scrubb, who shut down Harrison and held him to just two points in the quarter. While the Ravens focused on Harrison, Laurier’s other players stepped up and delivered. All but one player managed to score for the Golden Hawks, which helped them head into the final frame up 65-60.
That’s when things started to go downhill for Laurier. Scrubb ended up scoring nine points in the fourth, while Cole Hobin put up eight. On the other end, Laurier just couldn’t get the ball to drop in, and were unable to capitalize on chances in the last two minutes of the game. They ended up being outscored 23-11 in the quarter, which in turn led to an 83-76 victory for the Ravens.
Of the comeback, Ravens coach Dave Smart said that being down helped them realize what they needed to do to get back into the game.
“We got down pretty big in the third quarter, and you’ve got chip away, and I think basically when we got down we were panicking, and I guess when you hit rock bottom it’s easier to sort-of see how to gradually make your way back,” said Smart.
“I thought the effort was terrific, we started out they had a couple quick offensive boards which we said we didn’t want to happen, and then I thought we settled after that, we did a good job,” said Laurier coach Peter Campbell.
“We were ahead at the half in rebounding, and I think the only thing that hurt us in the first half was they shot 16 foul shots and we shot 6, and we turned the ball over more than we wanted to. But, effort wise you can’t complain about anybody, they worked hard, and the other thing was that late in the game I thought we got a little tentative and we can’t play tentative, you’ve got play with courage you’ve got to believe in yourself, and I thought we did a great job of that.”
“I thought the problem with that, and we talked about it as a team, is that when some teams get down they lose a little bit of it, but those guys just keep going for forty minutes, and you’ve got to match that,” Campbell said of the late Carleton comeback. “And when we made a couple of mistakes we probably got tentative.”
Scrubb was named the Pioneer Player of the Game for his efforts, which saw him finish the game with 23 points and 3 rebounds. Smart thinks it was his defense in shutting down Harrison that really stuck out, though.
“I think it was more his defensive effort, I mean we all had a tough time with [Harrison], and Phil, once he figured out he was covering him, he had a bit of a problem in the first half with that, when we did switch him onto [Harrison],” Smart said. “But in the second half, he just made every shot tough.”
Campbell, meanwhile, is encouraged that this could be a learning curve for the Golden Hawks who are expected to be a powerhouse in the OUA next season.
“Maybe it’s a learning experience, I said to them, everybody’s back, of everybody takes this as motivation over the off-season, if I get some players coming in recruiting, we’re going to be a better basketball team,” he said. “And we just proved we’re as good as one of the top two or three for sure.”
The Ravens will now move on in search of their fourth consecutive Wilson Cup victory Saturday night where they will face the top team from the OUA West regular season in the Lakehead Thunderwolves.
The Thunderwolves advanced in thrilling fashion Friday night, when they scored with just 0.9 seconds remaining to down the Ottawa Gee-Gees by a 71-69 final.